Colorado Re-revisited

by Marcel on October 1, 2009

There have been times when I’ve felt I left my heart in the Rockies. As awesome as it is out here in the Pacific Northwest it has been a tough transition for me. I feel like I’m just now starting to settle into our new home of Portland where we’ve been for a little over 2 years now. Charlotte has done a much better job of adapting and doesn’t like my “what if” musings. It’s not that I’m unhappy with our decision to move out here, but at times I do feel as if there is a big cloud over my head (especially from Nov-Feb). What I needed was some bright sunshine and high altitude to clear up the mildew in my brain that has been dragging me down. Clearly a trip back to Colorado was long overdue :yes:

Just before the July 4th Holiday I was laid off my latest contract job. This was somewhat expected, but like with anything work related out here you never really know for sure until it happens. Well it happened, so I took it as an opportunity to visit some old friends in Colorado. I had other business reasons for going there too, but I’ll spare you those uninteresting details. Fortunately I was told by my employer that they expected to have me back at work in August so I at least had some security of a job to come back to, kind of :-/

With the work scene being so sporadic I decided to go on the cheap and drive the jeep. In the jeep I’d be able to sleep in the back at rest areas on the long drive there and back, and also take all of my camping gear. I planned to spend the first week in Denver and then the second week camping out while hiking a few 14ers. The drive out according to mapquest would be about 18 hours. I found out you’d have to be very ambitious to make that time, and if you go the I70 route which I did on the way there it will likely add a few more hours to your drive.

The drive though Eastern Oregon was lovely on I84 along the Columbia River and through the Cascade, Blue, and Walla Walla Mountain ranges. Surprisingly it took almost 8 hours just to get out of Oregon when driving east. Once in Southern Idaho I could see mountains in the far distance but for the most part it was just brown dry barren landscape except for frequent potato farms. It’s kind of a mix between Kansas and New Mexico landscape but even more desolate; you don’t’ want to break down in Idaho! Utah is of course an amazing place but I pretty much drove straight though it so I could try to get to Colorado the next day to attempt a 14er.

When I got to the Rockies it was like WOW! There is nothing like it anywhere else. I really miss those beautiful mountains. I drove to the trail head of LaPlata Peak the next morning, or what I thought was the trailhead. In my fatigue I got lost and drove down the wrong 4×4 trail. By the time I found my way to the right trail it was almost noon, which is way too late to start up a 14er.

Mt Elbert
Mt Elbert the hightest point in Colorado 14,433 feet

Content to forget the 14er and drive down a very scenic memory lane I started to soak in the Colorado sunshine and immediately took notice of some of the local culture that I had long forgotten. Nearly everyone drives a truck or SUV with a bike, ski, or kayak rack on it. Most people are very fit looking like triathletes, and they all seem to be on the way to some kind of adventure. Even on a weekday the rivers and creeks were full of fly fishermen, rafters, and kayakers. In Denver you have your typical city people but for the most part everyone in CO is more active, adventurous, and fit than anywhere else in the country. Colorado is the most fit state in the union after all.

After spending a night to recover from the drive in the old familiar mountain town of Idaho Springs I headed on to Denver. Driving past Red Rocks brought back many good memories of a life I left behind 4 years earlier, although it feels like much longer than that. I’ve often wondered if we made the right decision to leave Denver and move out west after our EuroTrip in 2005. We saw a lot during that 6 months of nonstop travel, and it took a long time for all of it to sink in. Especially while living in our new home of Seattle that never felt quite right. It might have been easier to retreat back to Denver after our trip, but we both wanted to try living in the PNW for a while. We felt that if we went back to Denver we might not have another chance to move. So we did the trip and the move all in one shot, for better or worse.

Needless to say we’ve often mused about our decision and what could have been. We could have stayed in Denver where we were already well established, or moved to Florida instead, or back to Texas, or even overseas. Instead we took the Oregon Trail west, with a temporary detour to Seattle. We’ve never regretted our move but I can’t deny that I haven’t thought about alternate realities from time to time. My visit to Colorado would only heighten these thoughts, and hopefully bring some closure. There were other things weighing heavy on my mind at this time too, so this trip was destined to be a soul searching journey.

Once I finally made it to Denver I stayed with some old friends (Todd and Ellen) who I knew from way back when I lived in Dallas. It was really great to visit with them, and I definitely appreciate their hospitality. It was also really cool to see their boys again who are now half way to being teenagers!

Todd has a great view of the Front Range from his super-deck that he built himself. The first night I was there we watched a wicked thunderstorm roll in from the foothills. Although we get plenty of rain in Oregon we don’t get much in the summer and it is rarely accompanied by thunder and lighting. I can only guess that this is because it is either too humid or cold in the atmosphere, but I’m not a meteorologist so don’t quote me on that. Colorado on the other hand is very dry overall, but does get frequent thunderstorms in the summer. Seizing this rare opportunity I was able to shoot my first ever lighting photos.

First photo of lightning

Second photo of lightning

During my stay I was able to visit with many of my old friends from Comcast where I worked for over 5 years. I really wanted to catch up with everyone so it was great that so many people were able to meet up with me for lunch and/or dinner where we really had time to chat. Good times! Almost everyone I saw has one or more kids now. This was very interesting and informative for me to see parenting in action from my peers. Now that I am a dogfather the thought of being a regular dad has crossed my mind quite often. Something to think about…

I planned on staying another week to go camping and hike some 14ers but I got the call to return to work early.:roll: I guess they really did like me after all! After a week in CO I still had a lot on my mind so my heart just wasn’t in the hiking and camping mode anyway, or at least I kept telling myself that as I drove back to Oregon.

I did actually try another 14er during the week I was there but poor planning, bad weather, and maybe a little lack of motivation turned me back from the summit about half way up Mt Missouri. This is too bad because climbing mountains has always been like a sort of mediation for me. It clears my mind and allows me to think freely while unobstructed by the clutter of society. Lately however my desire to climb big mountains has faded, but then again there are many mountains to climb in life and they aren’t all of the geological variety. Once again my interests in life are shifting, more to think about…

My initial feeling during the first few days back in CO was that I really miss the Rockies. I started to remember how I used to have the same just-do-it Colorado attitude as the people I was now observing as a tourist. Somehow, somewhere, I lost a little bit of that attitude along the way, or at least it morphed into something different. Despite this longing for the old days, eventually I started to remember the reasons that made us want move on to a new place with new offerings. There are some things that just can’t be beat in Colorado like the Rocky Mountains, but also some things you just can’t get there like a good farmers market or the Pacific Ocean. Every place has its good and bad points, it just happens that Colorado and Oregon both have a lot of good points and a few bad ones too (possible future blog topic).

All in all I’d say it was a really nice trip. I got my business stuff taken care of and saw lots of old friends. My 6 years in Colorado was a great time in my life. My many friends there will always be friends, and the place will always feel like home. Still, I personally needed a little closure about our decision to go west. Visiting CO allowed me to straighten out a dog-eared chapter in my life that I’ve been revisiting in my mind much too often. As much as I miss CO I now realize there are plenty of reasons to feel at home in our new home. Our roots in Oregon are growing fast just like everything else that grows fast out here. We have a house, dog, garden, growing circles of friends, and the whole west coast to explore. There may be a new Colorado chapter for us someday, but for now the current chapter is green trees, grey skies, one very wild party animal ;D

Mulder ready to party

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